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Sony NEX-7 Digital Camera Review

sony20120120a.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola 

 

In August of 2011 Sony expanded the NEX series with the announcement of the NEX-7. Following our reviews of Sony’s NEX-3 and NEX-5, when we were offered the NEX-7 for review we couldn’t resist, especially since this camera is equipped with the same sensor as the Platinum Medal awarded A77 SLT, which produces beautiful 24 megapixel images. So read on and see how it performed…

 

Appearance & Functionality


sony20120120b.jpgWithout even physically viewing the camera, the box alone is a great preview to the finishing efforts Sony has put into the NEX-7. With cleverly wrapped card around the box, a black velure finished interior with individual inserts for the body, lens and accessories and separately boxed instructions / cds / manuals to keep them out of the way, you get the feeling you’re opening something very special.

The Sony NEX-7 has a solidly built magnesium alloy body offering a high degree of structural integrity and lasting durability weighing in at just 291g, and is complimented by stainless steel lens mounts on both the body and the ever expanding NEX lens range.

At the time of launch the NEX-7 claimed the tags for world's fastest shutter release with time lag of just 0.02 second, and a world’s fastest 10 frames per second capture, for mirror less interchangeable-lens cameras.

Remarkably, Sony have added the highly acclaimed 24.3-megapixel APS-C Exmor sensor used in the Alpha SLT-A77 which recently earned a Platinum award in our reviews (platinum is the highest medal rating) now adding 8 megapixels on the NEX-5 model below.

The handling of the NEX-7 is comfortable and easily operable in one hand. Without even using a second hand, the user can switch from image capture to Full HD video capture quickly and seamlessly whilst the camera automatically transports across the settings used just moments before in still image capture mode.

A fantastic new addition to the NEX camera available only on the NEX-7 for the moment is the ‘TRINAVI’ controls. TRINAVI controls give you three separate control dials for direct, hands-on access to three key settings, at a time. The dials allow access to the most commonly used functions for quick changes to ISO, aperture and exposure compensation. Just one roll of either dial on the top and you’re tweaking while shooting.

sony20120120c.jpgAlong with those dials are dedicated buttons for focus points, menu and playback along with the back dial doubling as a point to also access timer, drive modes and LCD display options.

For a first time NEX user the Sony NEX-7 menu system starts off easily enough with mobile phone type styled icons, but then simply lists the options for the cameras functionality in a rather plain, long and tedious fashion. Once you’ve spent a little time with the camera you pick up individual item locations but it’s certainly something Sony could revisit, along with the possiblity of a touch screen.


One particularly fun function within the NEX-7 digital camera is the 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama. When activated on-screen instructions guide you to creating high resolution panorama images, by simply swinging the camera slowly from left to right and letting the camera do the rest, and just listening to the shutter go through its paces work-horse like at 10fps.

Another function worth noting is the Picture Effect option, which gives the user the option to shoot using a number of in-camera artistic effects, without the use of a computer for after-processing adjustments. There are now 11 modes and 15 effects, including the new HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Rich-Tone Mono and my favourite in Miniature.

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality


The image quality as hoped was nothing short of fantastic. Using the same 24.3 megapixel Exmor sensor featured in the A77, combined with a  BIONZ image processor and rapid data readout to accelerate speed, Sony have produced a gem that for the moment has earned top billing over its competitors in the same class.

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The test images from the 18-55mm E-mount lens were sharp thanks to the 25 AF points spread over a wide area of the frame, and large in file size. Both positive ticks. But as mentioned in previous reviews on the NEX-3 and NEX-5 the images seemed just a little under-exposed, possibly by default. However, as one of the TRINAVI controls allows super easy exposure adjustment it’s something that, although worth mentioning is at the same time virtually a non-issue.

The NEX-7 is also capable of capturing images at up to 10 frames per second, and does it well with Sony’s tracking focus function, which further increases the chances of capturing a sharp image.

Like Sony's A77 the ISO too on this camera performed superbly, with a range varying from 100 ISO to 16,000 ISO. As with any camera at present, including the top end DSLRs the user will always find issues with grain and a drop in image quality at the very high end of the ISO count. But with very usable images up to 3,200 ISO and passable images 6,400 ISO printed up to 4x6 inches, the ISO range on offer in low light to capture quality images is nothing short of excellent.

To have the luxury of shooting fine grain images at 1,600 ISO without thinking twice is truly a remarkable technological advancement in just the space of a few years, and then to add a ‘stop’ on top of this to hit 3,200 ISO just opens up plenty of opportunities to photographers across the globe, and gives further battery life to those using additional off-camera fill flash.


From 6,400 ISO the grain really does increase along with an image quality drop. At 16,000 ISO this 'film speed' is more for fun than anything else – but none-the-less it’s great to see Sony pushing the ISO boundary and achieving improved results with each new generation of sensor technology.

 

sony20120120e.jpgLCD / Viewfinder


At the time the NEX-7 was announced, the model came equipped with a world first for this segment, an XGA OLED Tru-Finder at an unprecedented 2,359k dots (XGA) viewfinder. Again, its technology was borrowed from the A77 big brother and is nothing short of a standout when it comes to brightness and clarity. This built in viewfinder is a first for the NEX series as the NEX-5 and NEX-3 only had the option to add an EV via an external attachment.

The rear 3-inch wide type TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology and 921,600 dots is adjustable with a flip up tiltable action of 90 degrees and down by 45 degrees from the camera back. The screen is bright and colours vivid in live view and playback. The only negative, as with the A77 is the highly prone LCD surface to finger prints, which luckily is also very easy to clean.

 

sony20120120f.jpgVideo


There is a lot to like about the Full HD video on offer here, for the simple reason that it is quite possibly a class leader. When the movie button is pressed video capture is fast to activate delivering clear, vivid and punchy imagery. The mechanics onboard quickly adapted to environment changes with light colour and brightness during filming being adjusted seamlessly.

One of the features which really impressed is the option to switch to movie mode even if you were in single frame mode or shooting photographs continuously, and also have the custom settings used at the time of image capture ported across to video mode – all automatically. And it does not matter if you were in single frame mode or shooting photographs continuously.

Manual focus is possible during video shooting too. Enthusiasts can also enjoy full control over their video capture with Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority and all-Manual modes (PASM) – just like a DSLR camera.

With support from the new AVCHD Progressive (Ver. 2.0) form, the NEX-7 shoots beautifully smooth and detailed AVCHD Full HD movies in both progressive and interlaced modes, along with high-quality stereo sound.

 

 

 

 

 

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Conclusion


With so many features on offer and so much expectation and hype surrounding the new NEX hero, Sony really had its work cut out. Luckily, the raised bar was not only reach but cleared easily. The quality of the 24mp image capture straight up is an absolute winner. Couple that with beautiful Full HD video capture from a device that is primarily all about photography and you really just can’t walk past this gem.

The only gripes surround the rear LCD which is prone to easily picking up finger prints, and the continued persistence of a Sony ‘hot-shoe’ mount continued on from the from the acquired Minolta technologies. Both small and something that may be addressed in time for a Sony NEX-10… possibly?

But for the moment forget the price tag, if the NEX-7 falls into the group of cameras you're considering as your next purchase... quite simply lean over the counter to the sales representative and tell them one thing… “I’ll take it”. It wont disappoint, not for a second.

 

This camera is very highly recommended.

Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Video quality
4 stars
Lens quality
5 stars
View finder (EVF)
4 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4 stars
Value for money 4 star
RRP (AUD) Body only $1,499.00
RRP (AUD) Kit $1,699.00 (18-55mm Lens)
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 24.3 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C type), Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with RGB primary colour filter
Image Sizes 3 Sizes / 2 Aspect
Lens DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM zoom lens
Lens Mount
Sony E-mount lenses
Resolution Settings - Stills Aspect Ratio 3:2 L: 6000 x 4000 (24M), M: 4240 x 2832 (12M), S: 3008 x 2000 (6M), Aspect Ratio 16:9 L: 6000 x 3376 (20M), M: 4240 x 2400 (10M), S: 3008 x 1688 (5.1M)
ResolutionSettings - Video 1920 x 1080 (50p/28Mbps/PS, 50i/24Mbps/FX, 50i/17Mbps/FH, 25p/24Mbps/FX, 25p/17Mbps/FH), MP4 1440 x 1080 (25fps/12Mbps), VGA 640 x 480 (25fps/3Mbps)
Shooting Modes - Stills
RAW, RAW & JPEG, JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard
Face Detection Yes, up to 8 faces detectable automatically
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Electronically controlled, vertical traverse, focal-plane type, 1/4000 to 30 sec, Bulb, 1/160 sec.
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO AUTO (ISO100-1600), ISO100 to 16000 selectable (in 1EV steps, Recommended Exposure Index)
LCD Monitor 7.5cm (3.0-type) wide type TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology, 921,600 dots, Approx. 100% Field coverage, Adjsutable angle up approx. 90 degrees, down approx. 45 degrees (from the camera back).
Viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (colour), 100% Field of view, OLED Tru-Finder at 2,359k dots (XGA) resolution
Flash Built-in Auto Pop-up, Auto (Flash-off), Auto, Fill flash, Red-eye reduction, Rear Sync, Slow sync, High-speed sync*, Wireless* *Requires compatible external flash. +/- 3EV (1/3 EV, 1/2 EV increments switchable)
Hot Shoe Yes, proprietary
White Balance Auto WB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, C. Temp 2500 to 9900k, C. Filter (G7 to M7 15-step, A7 to B7 15-step), Custom, WB fine adjustment
Self Timer 10/2 sec delay selectable, Cont.: with 10 sec delay, 3/5 exposures selectable
Stills Format/s
JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format), 3D MPO (MPF Extended compliant)
Video Format/s AVCHD / MP4, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) Video compression, Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Video Recording Time/s -
Storage Type - External Memory Stick PRO Duo / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD memory card / SDHC memory card / SDXC memory card
Storage Type - Internal
-
Connectivity USB2.0 Hi-speed (Mass-storage, MTP), HDMI mini connector (Type-C), BRAVIA Sync (link menu), PhotoTV HD
Power Source AC Adaptor AC-PW20 *5
Battery Options BC-VW1
Battery Life Approx. 430 images (CIPA standard)
Dimensions 119.9 mm (W) x 66.9mm (H) x 42.6mm (D) (without protrusions)
Weight 291g (not including battery, memory card or accessories)
















 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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